As the crack epidemic swept across inner-city America in the early 1980s, the streets of Baltimore were crime ridden. For poor kids from the housing projects, the future looked bleak. But basketball could provide the quickest ticket out, an opportunity to earn a college scholarship and perhaps even play in the NBA.
Dunbar High School had one of the most successful basketball programs, not only in Baltimore but in the entire country, and in the early 1980s, the Dunbar Poets were arguably the best high school team of all time. Four starting players--Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, and Reggie Lewis--would eventually play in the NBA, an unheard-of success rate. In The Boys of Dunbar, Alejandro Danois takes us through the 1981-1982 season with the Poets as the team conquered all its opponents. But more than that, he takes us into the lives of these kids, and especially of Coach Bob Wade, a former NFL player from the same neighborhood who knew that the basketball court, and the lessons his players would learn there, held the key to the future.
Drawing on interviews with Coach Wade, Muggsy Bogues, and others, The Boys of Dunbar is a remarkable testament to the power of dedication, inspiration, and teamwork. It is an ode to an extraordinary coach, a father figure who had lived the life of his players years before and who turned a dream into reality.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-20
- Reviewer: Staff
The 1981–1982 Poets, the basketball team of Baltimore’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, reside in sports folklore, as Danois explains in this tedious history. Three future NBA players—Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, David Wingate, and Reggie Williams—started with the Poets that season, and one future NBA All-Star (the late Reggie Lewis, who was a captain on the Boston Celtics) came off the bench. Coach Bob Wade, who happened to be an ex-NFL player, refused to have his players coast on their talent. Instead, the Baltimore native conducted practices where players carried bricks and sandbags to teach their bodies to combat fatigue. Danois, editor-in-chief of the Shadow League, recounts the memorable season and its resonance in a city whose salad days had shriveled into unemployment, drugs, and violence. The anecdotes, including the 5’3” Bogues astonishing crowds with his formidable abilities and Wingate’s struggle to balance basketball with caring for his disabled mother, only go so far. Danois rarely talks to anyone outside of Dunbar’s squad, and the season-long narrative lacks a hook beyond the team’s dominance. Danois’s attempts to branch out—profiling Baltimore’s youth basketball organizers and fallen legends—do little to reduce the insular flimsiness. (Sept.)